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We live in an age of wonderful reference books. Those Renaissance scholars who first edited Chaucer and asked the basic questions about his meanings lacked our concordances, dictionaries, gazetteers, and source guides. But then we and our s tudents lack their classical education and ready familiarity with mythology and late medieval biography. So we need reference books as they have never been needed before.

Two years ago, Garland Publishing asked me to serve as a reader for this book, and I surreptitiously photocopied de Weever's typescript before I returned it with my comments. I needed her name dictionary then, not later, and have used it constantly since. This volume allows us to look up arcane information scattered through thousands of notes in editions variously available, and it updates citations to more modern (and accessible) editions and reference books. It also explains astronomical and astrologica l terms in ways I can understand, tying them to names and stories.

Professor de Weever has designed this volume for easy access by scholars and beginners, specialists and nonspecialists alike. You do not need to know the answer to find the answer, as in so many reference books in the medieval field. For example, she list s the names under their main Chaucerian spellings, on the assumption that most seekers will proceed from a reference in Chaucer's text. But she also cross-references heavily from other spellings, including modern ones. So we find "Augustin" cros s-referenced from "Augustine," even though the two names sit side by side in her alphabetical listing. The best reference books assume very little.

This book goes far beyond answering questions about particular references occurring in Chaucer. For instance, I wondered if Chaucer had read Bede's Ecclesiastical History, so I looked up the key names: Bede, Caedmon, Edwin, Hilda, Aidan, and Cuthbe rt. De Weever lists only the last, and her apparatus tells me that Chaucer did not need to know Bede to have the scholars in the Reeve's Tale ask for hospitality in the saint's name.

My typescript version has gotten a little dog-eared from use, and I look forward to replacing it with my own printed copy. On behalf of medieval scholars and students, I thank Professor de Weever for placing so much rich information at our fingertips.

Donald K. Fry, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, Florida

Copyright © 1988, 1996 Jacqueline de Weever
Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

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